Jack W. Kratsas, a Korean War veteran and small-business owner, died Oct. 1 at a hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. He was 86.
Kratsas, who lived in Port Jefferson until his retirement about a decade ago, died at Medical University of South Carolina a week after he had a stroke, said his daughter, Helen Savage, 56, of Rocky Point.
“He was a very kind man,” she said. “They used to call him ‘Happy Jack’ or ‘Smiling Jack’ because he was an outgoing, friendly person.”
Born May 17, 1930, in Cleveland, Kratsas’ family moved to Brooklyn, when he was 3. From 1951 to 1953, Kratsas served in the Korean War, but was stationed in the Republic of Panama, where he maintained and repaired weapons, according to his family. After his marriage to Margaret Kratsas, now 83, the couple in the 1950s moved to Port Jefferson, where they raised two daughters.
With an entrepreneurial spirt, Kratsas founded several small businesses that included a ready-mixed concrete company and Genesis Limousine, which had a fleet of two stretch limousines and a town car that shuttled wedding guests around town and picked up and delivered Long Islanders to and from the airports, his daughter said. After about two decades of putting in long hours — with early morning and late night runs — her father retired in the early 2000s. Her parents moved to Charleston, where her sister, Mary Riley, 59, lives.
Retirement, Kratsas soon found out, didn’t suit him.
“After sitting around the house for a year, he got bored,” Savage said.
Kratsas got a part-time job at as a greeter at Costco, and, until his death, was the retailer’s oldest employee in the United States, according to Savage.
“He didn’t consider it work. He considered a social event,” she said. “He was amazed they paid him to talk to people at the door.”
Kratsas, whose parents emigrated from the Greek island of Ikaria, had always been thankful for the opportunities America offered his family.
At the dinner table, Savage said her father always remarked: “We Americans live good.” At Kratsas’ request, those words will be inscribed on his tombstone at Live Oak Memorial Gardens in Charleston.
In addition to his wife and two daughters, Kratsas is survived by a sister, Despina Malahias, of Riverhead; two granddaughters and two grandsons.